An interview with NTCF chair, Joanna Santa Barbara

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Last month Nelson Tasman Climate Forum members elected Joanna Santa Barbara as the chair of the Forum's leadership group. As NTCF's Communications Manager, I had the pleasure of interviewing her.

Áine: How would you describe the Forum in one sentence? 
Joanna: The Forum is a citizens’ movement to bring us together to make actual our necessary transformation to a climate stable world. 

Áine: What skills will you bring to the Chair position?
Joanna:  I have some experience in bringing people together to act on existence-threatening matters and in holding the big picture in focus while we work together on the details of what we must accomplish. 

Áine: How do you see the role of the Chair?  
Joanna: The Forum has developed a vision and shaped  strategies, We are ready to reach out and bring the vision and strategies to lots of other people-to make it actually happen in households, businesses, schools and other organisations. This is our Weaving Plan, and I see the role of Chair to be continually fostering that process.

Áine: What do you do in your daily life that reflects the principles of the charter? 
Joanna: I eat a vegetarian diet. I try to buy as little as possible of food, clothes and other commodities, and to minimise waste. When It’s possible to walk to my destinations I do. Occasionally I hitch hike. It bothers me greatly to use the car but I sometimes have to. I mend things whenever possible, particularly clothing. I’m lucky enough to live in a house that requires little external energy input except for solar power (it’s a passive solar house) and is self-sufficient in energy, water and waste. We can live at about a quarter of the energy requirements of most households. I try not to fly. Regarding adaptation to climate change, we live in a small cooperative community, attempting a degree of self-sufficiency.

Áine: What would you say the Forum’s biggest challenges are? 
Joanna: Outreach and action are our big challenges now, I think. This may call on some Forum members to exercise new or dormant capacities to speak to groups, write for newsletters and so on. On the other hand, more action-oriented members may be delighted that we are swinging into this phase. In this outreach phase, we’ll also be challenged by folk who are uncomfortable with what is nothing less than a transformation of society. We’ll need to meet that with empathy and wisdom.

Áine: Where do you think the Forum could improve? 
Joanna: I’d think of this as what might be the evolving points of the Forum: we’ve created an excellent structure, democratic, consensus-based, inclusive. We need to maintain awareness of how this is serving the key purposes of the Forum and be ready to modify if necessary. The vital work is done by volunteers, that is, people who are stretching themselves beyond their normal duties in order to serve society. We need to take care of volunteers, support them with skill development and resources and ensure against burn-out.

Áine: What are the Forum’s most important achievements? 
Joanna: The Climate Action Book is a notable achievement for the Forum. Our good working relationships with the two councils, some of the Iwi and with key organizations working on broad environmental issues, is a pretty significant achievement. Having created a democratic, consensus-based, inclusive structure should serve the Forum well in the coming years. 

Áine: What do you perceive to be the biggest climate change threats/issues that need immediate attention in the region? 
Joanna: The two major sources of emissions in our region are transport and agriculture. The necessary changes in these areas will shove us out of familiar ruts. In both cases, the advice that was published recently from the Climate Change Commission to the government makes it clear that we will have to change the way we move around. Our rural sector will be wrestling with significant changes in how we produce food and will need support in this process.

Áine: Are you a member of any other not for profits/groups/boards? 
Joanna: I’m part of the think tank/advocacy groups Zero Carbon Nelson Tasman and Our Climate Declaration. The latter works at a national level on issues such as energy, and alternatives to a growth-driven economy.

Áine: What do you like to do in your spare time?  
Joanna: I love textile crafts. I like to knit and embroider. I also enjoy preserving. As we grow so much of our own food, we need to. In the pantry at the moment I have an array of jams, chutneys, preserved lemons, beetroot, pears, apples and olives. 
I run a weekly drama group for children in my community. Currently we are working on a play that the children wrote. In it an asteroid is hurtling towards the earth. A young girl with powerful connections to supernatural beings called Earth Benders is instrumental in changing the trajectory of the asteroid and saving the earth. No sooner have they saved the earth from impending doom, they realise that there is an even bigger challenge ahead of them. How will they solve climate change!